A frequent question I am asked about boys in the 8-10 year old age group is how to start a conversation with them about puberty and what to teach them. Boys in this age group are typically more willing to discuss this topic, but it is a small window that can shut abruptly as they mature further into puberty.
I have observed in boys that they are uncomfortable with “big talks” about their body. I know one mom who would plan small, casual conversations that took place in a natural way to conquer this. She would treat her son on a regular “mom date” where they would spend some time together and she would open the topic with something easy. When steering the conversation, she left plenty of opportunity for him to ask questions or share how he was feeling. Over the course of these couple years, she regularly would check in with him about these topics and overall, she found she was able to support him better through puberty because they had started that talk early.
What to talk about…
Unlike girls, boys in this age group show only a few signs that they are in puberty. But this is a good time to teach your son some information about his reproductive system so he can understand where the changes are going to happen in the future. Here is a list of topics that you might want to talk about in this age group:
Explain that his genitals are his penis and scrotum. Use correct terms when you teach him and not the “street language”, but you might need to include some casual terms if you think he needs to understand other terms that he might hear.
Explain that there are two testicles inside his scrotum and his scrotum is going to grow a little in the next few years. The reason for this is that the testicles that are inside are going to start making sperm. Sperm help make babies. As his testicles start making sperm, the testicles will grow a little. He might notice a small change in size by the time he is 10 years old. He might want to pursue more information about how babies are made and I would suggest you keep it simple. You could mention that a sperm joins with an egg from the girl reproductive system and that makes a baby. Beyond that, you are welcome to email me or check our Q&A section for solutions to addressing this topic age appropriately.
Describe the difference between a circumcised penis and one that has not been circumcised. Your son has probably already noticed the difference but was uncertain if he should ask and even wondered if his penis is normal. This would be a good time to explain to him the choice that you made for him and why.
Boys in puberty begin to be concerned about the size of their penis. Part of the reason for this is that some boys start puberty early and their penis will be larger than a boy who starts later. Explain to your son that penis size is determined by genetics and how fast his penis grows is also because of genetics. Whatever happens to him is normal and the size of his penis will be normal as well.
One of the first signs that you will notice that your son has entered puberty is a change in his body odor. Encourage him that this is normal and suggest he start wearing deodorant. Make your trip to the store a fun “parent-child bonding time.”
When they want to know more…
In my book, I’m a Boy, My Changing Body, I cover more information about early puberty in boys. I took advantage of their more open attitude about learning these concepts and described reproductive glands and the passageway for sperm to the penis. These concepts will become important by the time they are 11-13 years old and their body begins to produce fluid for an ejaculate. It is great to help guide you if you want to cover additional anatomical information.
The big idea here I want to share is the advantage to beginning a casual dialogue that will be the basis for many conversations over the next several years. By keeping it simple and fun, you and your son will look forward to these times together.